DFS Group (DFS), the world's leading luxury travel retailer in partnership with Changi Airport Group (CAG) hosted its eighth annual edition of the prestigious Master of Wines and Spirits in Singapore on Saturday, March 23 and Sunday, March 24.
The 2019 edition saw over 1000 local and international guests to the state-of-art complex, Inifitinite Studios and explored the theme of "Masters at Work". The event showcased six masters and organised four masterclasses, allowing guests to savour and enjoy wines and spirits to the fullest.
Mr Fabrice Papin, Iternational Brand Ambassador of Château Lafite Rothschild was the Master of Wine and held a wine masterclass, taking guests through a full-range tasting of eight different Domaines Barons de Rothschild Châteaux wines.
Cuisine and Wine Asia (CWA): How did your passion for wine start?
Mr Fabrice Papin (FP): It started when I was born, because my parents are winemakers in Bordeaux and Cognac. I studied winemaking and then I did a masters degree in wines and business, and I always lived and worked within the wine industry. So I would say that is in my blood, it was just a natural thing for me to work in the wine industry, and I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity – I feel extremely happy and privileged to work in this industry, and to work today for one of the most iconic companies, French, Lafitte. Yes, it's a dream come when you are actually from a winemaker's family, I feel very lucky.
CWA: Your passion and work, that goes together?
FP: Yes, passion and work together, it's something I think not a lot of people have the chance to experience. We are in a fascinating industry, and we are in an industry where there's more and more interest, more interest in drinking wine, more interest in learning about wine, which makes our job fascinating. We are storytellers, we share the stories of what we do. But, as always, the truth is in the glass.
CWA: So what are your personal favourites among the DFS Masters of Wines and Spirits collection here today?
FP: An interesting question. I'm going to try to be as logical and straightforward as I can, but it's not easy. What we've done, we have selected different wines from different vintages because a vintage tells a story about the vineyards. So if we start with the master class, the amazing thing is that people can discover first and second labels. So if you ask me about what I prefer, I like the fact that the second labels, let's say, Moulin de Jean Lafitte, they are the expression of what the vineyard is, but in a more affordable luxury way, because we are more accessible in terms of price and also in terms of style. I also think what I like about this selection is that each guest also will have a favourite. I think that is always the special moment.
But yeah, people will be surprised and amazed even with their thinking process. They would think, wow, this one is... just by looking at the label, wow, this is the best. And then they might discover that also it depends on the moment. Sometimes you have two hours to prepare your wine, but sometimes you are on the spot, you open the bottle, and you want the want to be ready.
CWA: Do you see any difference in the drinking preferences between Asian and Middle East customers and in Bordeaux?
FP: Yes, I think one of the key word for me in Asia would be education, people love – education and passion, they are craving for learning moments where they can discover wines, going to the vineyard. I had the chance to live eight years in Hong Kong, and now I'm back in the vineyard in Bordeaux. When you see people being passionate about what you do behind what you produce and the smile when people will taste, you are like, wow, it's the best.
So I would say, to try to answer your question, I would say, in Bordeaux, the wine consumption is more something, it's natural in a way because we are surrounded by vineyards. Middle East, they like wine. I see less of the passion, but they have high interest in the famous names. We have pretty strong business, but Asia is more of a thirst for knowledge. Particualary in the past 10 to 15 years.
CWA: What were some of the difficulties you faced when you distributed the wines in Asia?
FP: Okay, the key thing for us is that we like to work with distributors; I call distributors our partners, our ambassadors. They need to have the same value and a strong understanding of how we work, what we make, what we produce, and which means that people need to be extremely strong. One thing that people might not think is that important is wine storage condition. We want to be sure that people that speak on our behalf or sell our wines, we want to be sure that they store the wine properly, it's in the right condition, that it's priced properly too.
We know that, for example, DFS or the stock coming, is coming from our properties. We like this kind of partnership because from, let's say, from the Chateau to the consumer, there is also an understanding of who is drinking the wine, who is the consumer, which our expertise is to – I mean, I would say we have two hats, primarily, one is to make the finest wine possible. Secondly one is to select our partners because I cannot sell the wine directly, I don't have the expertise of being a retail operator. That's not my background. My role, the role of the company is to make sure our retail partner is the best in what he does. Ao the challenge is, yeah, we say logistics – we are far away, the weather, the climate conditions are different obviously, so our people doing education are very promoting the wines as they should be. They have an understanding of the process of getting the wines to their countries, yes, if we talk about DFS. So that's the key for us. Promotion is one thing, promoting the wines, but being served and sold in the right condition, in the right retail environment, with a nice display is key, and we really appreciate DFS for this.
CWA: What are the possibilities for the group's wines in the future?
FP: We have, since the end of the 80's, had an expansion outside of Bordeaux. We have vineyards in Chile, we have vineyards in Argentina. We have a fantastic success story with Los Vascos, which is located in South America, which is looking into Chile, so a fantastic vineyard with a lot of programs on planting and so on. We have owned the stage since 1980s, for 30 years, actually, we had the 30th anniversary in Chile a couple of days ago. We also have a partnership with the Catena Bodega called Carol in Argentina since 1999, where this same year we also had a project in South of France with a very old estate, beautiful, now the wines are actually superb. And the latest one is China. We started this project in 2008, so you see eight, eight is very important. We're going to launch a Chinese wine soon. But you see, it took over 10 years, because we take our time in terms of making sure that the wine is up to our standard, up to our high standard. So that's one of the exciting projects.